State Board Approves Change In Year of Science Assessment From 4th to 5th, Gets Update on JJC/DOE Restorative Justice Initiative As Two Final Board Members Are Sworn In

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The State Board of Education, at their first meeting of new year, approved a change to the year in which the middle school science assessment is given from fourth to fifth grade and received a presentation from the Juvenile Justice Commission, in conjunction with the Department, as it relates to an juvenile justice initiative meant to encourage alternatives to juvenile detention.  The board heard from the Department on work around support of English language learners (ELLs).

New Board Members

The meeting began with the swearing in of two board members, approved by the Senate back in December:

  • Elaine Bobgrove of Haddon Township, New Jersey.  Ms. Bobgrove replaces Ms. Edithe Fulton who had served on the Board for a number of years for the residual of her unexpired term which is expected to end June 30, 2018.  Ms. Bobrove currently serves as an Adjunct Full Professor, Academic Skills English for Camden County College.  She is also the President, United Adjunct Faculty New Jersey (UAFNJ) Local 2222, President, Camden County College Chapter UAFNJ, AFTNJ VP for Higher Education, member of AFT Higher Education Program and Policy Council, member of NJ Higher Education Leadership Council.
  • Fatimah Burnam-Watkins of Linden, New Jersey.  Ms. Burman-Watkins will serve out the remainder of Dr. Dorothy Strickland who resigned from her seat.  Ms. Burman-Watkins term will run through June 30, 2023.  Ms. Burnam-Watkins currently works as the Executive Director of Teach For America New Jersey.

The seating of the two board members brings the board to a full complement for the first time in years.

Science Assessment Changes

Board action included the approval, by a vote of 8-3-2, to changes to the current science standards as it relates particularly to science assessment at the elementary level.  Specifically, the Department is proposing a change that would shift the science assessment from fourth to fifth grade.  Testing changes are being proposed in light of science standards changes that were adopted in 2014.

Specifically, in 2014, New Jersey adopted new standards, which we now call the New Jersey Student Learning Standards for Science (NJSLS-S).  These standards were based upon the Next Generation Science Standards and were developed collaboratively with stake-holders in science, science education, higher education, and industry.  The timeline for district implementation of these new standards by grade was as follows:

  • Grades 6-12 by 2016-17;
  • Grades K-5 by 2017-18

In concert with this standards change, the Department also did an assessment audit which found that the new changes required a corresponding change in assessment (Update on New Jersey’s Procurement of New Science Assessments, September 26, 2017)The new science standards have different standards progressions which include a natural opportunity to assess students comprehensively at the end of grade 5, rather than in 4th grade, because the elementary science standards (K-5) are specific to each grade level.

New Jersey Science educators convened to weigh in on the changes, supported shifting the assessment to grade 5, as it aligns to the progression of the elementary science standards (Memo regarding science advisory committees).  Other states, including Maryland, Illinois, Delaware and California, have also adopted the same science standards New Jersey has and assess in grade 5.

The Department introduced a code proposal back in November that would modify New Jersey Administrative Code from a science assessment in grade 4 to grade 5. Testing in grade 5 would also ensure students have the opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge of the entire elementary science standards.  The Department is also actively engaged in providing professional development related to the changes:

In spring of 2018 New Jersey will be administering a field test of ALL the new assessments ((in grades 5 (versus grade 4 assuming the State Board affirms the change), grade 8 and grade 11).  These assessments will be  named the New Jersey Student Learning Assessment-Science.

The spring 2019 administration is expected to be a baseline year of the new assessments, and it will reflect feedback gathered in the spring 2018 field test.  This broadcast memo from November 8 clarifies the two year transition to the new science assessments for accountability purposes – Update on New Science Assessments, November 8, 2017 Broadcast.  Specifically, the spring 2018 administration will be a field test, and results will NOT be included in a district’s New Jersey Quality Single Accountability Continuum (NJQSAC) review and will NOT affect a district’s score. The spring 2019 administration will be a baseline year. 

In the interim, the NJDOE will be supporting districts by providing:

  • 2018 field test administration guidance for grade 8, high school (typically in grade 11), and grade 5 (pending adoption by the State Board of Education);
  • Information on testing window and testing unit times, and technical and infrastructure guidance;
  • Resources (e.g. sample test questions);
  • Opportunities to participate in test development; and
  • Trainings in the winter and spring for test administrators, and with information for English Language Learners (ELLs) and special education students.

Following the field test in spring 2018, the NJDOE will be seeking feedback from districts and science educators to inform future administrations of the assessments.

Juvenile Detention Alternatives

In addition to action related to New Jersey’s science standards, the Board received a presentation from the Juvenile Justice Commission, in coordination with the Department of Education, on the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI).  The mission of the JDAI is to demonstrate that jurisdictions can establish more effective and efficient systems to address juvenile issues and reduce the amount of juvenile detention, particularly as it relates to low level offenses.

The initative’s work via a special committee developed between JJC and NJDOE, includes using data to identify trends in juvenile detention within New Jersey.  Among what was revealed from data analysis:

  • Most referrals to law enforcement are for low-level (i.e., misdemeanors) offenses; most informally diverted by the court. In response, the JDAI reached out to districts to seek out promising approaches or best practices that schools were using to reduce out-of-school suspension, expulsion, and referral to law enforcement, as well as improving school climate with a hope of sharing the information with districts;
  • Improvement is needed in expediting the time a child enrolls in school upon reentry from 10 to 5 days to one day after release. The NJDOE developed “Strategies to Support Students Returning to School After Confinement.“ This document provides information to New Jersey school districts regarding the needs of students entering and exiting confinement. The document covers: smooth transitions, appropriate placement, therapeutic support, multisystem collaboration with an identified transition coordinator, and ongoing monitoring and evaluation of progress
  • The partnership between the education and juvenile justice systems needs to be strengthened. To foster this, a forum on avoiding the school-to-prison pipeline: “Systems Working Together to Enhance Educational Opportunities for At-Risk Students” was convened in October 2015, small working groups were developed to address reentry and any changes that need to be made to the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between Education and Law Enforcement.  Presentations have also been held with education and justice partners, including the State Board of Education and Executive County Superintendents.

As it relates to the MOA, the Department is currently working with the Education-Law Enforcement Working Group to revise the document to:

  • Re-organize in more user-friendly format;
  • Ensure consistent language/terminology for school-based offenses;
  • Provide more specific information on mandatory v. non-mandatory referrals to law enforcement to clarify when educators must notify law enforcement and how law enforcement should respond; and
  • Promote meaningful dialogue and ongoing two-way collaboration between schools and law enforcement to best support students.

To provide context to what is possible when schools and law enforcement work together, the Board additionally heard from the Gloucester Township Police Department on their 3rd Gear Policing Initiative as well as the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office around their work to reduce the school to prison pipeline by collaborating with school districts.

The State of English Language Learners In New Jersey

Further, long awaited was a presentation by the Department on how the State is supporting the over 72 thousand English Language Learners (ELLs) in the Garden State.  The Department educated the Board on the top 10 languages (Spanish, Arabic, Chinese, Gujarati, Haitian Creole, Portuguese, Urdu, Korean, Bengali, Vietnamese) spoken as well as the fact that the ELL population has significantly increased since 2010 (17,000 students).

New Jersey has a long history of supporting bilingual education, passing a law in 1974 (N.J.S.A. 18A:35-15 to 26) and corresponding code (N.J.A.C. 6A:15) that outlines the programmatic and administrative requirements for ELLs.  These services vary in degree based upon the size of the population of ELLs.

lang services

The enactment of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) added additional accountability measures for districts as it relates to ELLs.  In New Jersey, these requirements were incorporated as follows:

  • Elementary and Middle School Indicators
    • Academic Achievement (Proficiency)
    • Academic Progress
  • High School Indicators
    • Academic Achievement (may also include progress)
    • 4-year and 5-year Graduation Rate
  • All School Indicators
    • Progress Toward English Language Proficiency Chronic
  • Absenteeism

Last year, 44 percent of all N.J. 10th graders met or exceeded ELA expectations on PARCC (SY 15/16) and 4 percent of current 10th grade ELLs met or exceeded ELA expectations on PARCC (SY 15/16).  ELL content growth is about the same as all students.  ELLs at different levels of English language proficiency have different average levels of content proficiency

levels of proficiency ell descriptors

ELL acheivement

In response to the new accountability requirements, the Department is assisting by encouraging and supporting:

  • Family Engagement – Parent Expo: Biliteracy for Student Success, 9/23/17; and
  • Coordination of Supports – Office of Comprehensive Supports – NJTSS – County Offices – Program Offices

School Board’s Recognized

The Board additionally recognized January as School Board Recognition month.

Certification of School Districts

Finally, the Board approved eighteen evaluations under NJQSAC (four full and fourteen interim). Appendix A  lists all of the districts and their DPR scores.  One district scored 80 percent or above in all five DPR areas and was approved for a period of three years.  This district – Paterson – will now move toward a return to local control as have several other state controlled districts including Jersey City and Newark.  The Board will begin that process as early as next month.

Seventeen districts scored below 80% in one or more DPR areas and are required to develop and implement a QSAC improvement plan to address deficient indicators.